Ruka Hirano takes snowboard halfpipe win at Copper Grand Prix as stars struggle |

Ruka Hirano takes snowboard halfpipe win at Copper Grand Prix as stars struggle

Japans’ Ruka Hirano makes a run through the halfpipe on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, during the U.S. Grand Prix snowboarding finals at Copper Mountain.
Hugh Carey/AP

There was nothing surprising about a Hirano winning on Saturday. The fact that it was Ruka, however, may have turned some heads.

The 19-year-old Japanese snowboarder came out on top in the men’s halfpipe final of the Copper Mountain Grand Prix, the second World Cup win of Ruka Hirano’s career (Calgary, February 2020). A few spots back in fourth was Japan’s Ayumu Hirano (no relation), the two-time reigning Olympic silver medalist and former X Games Aspen champion.

Ruka Hirano scored 89.25 on the first of his three finals runs — complete with five double corks, or inversions — and the score held up. Switzerland’s Jan Scherrer finished second with 88.50 and Japan’s Yuto Totsuka was third with 87.75.

After Ayumu Hirano in fourth, Steamboat Springs native Taylor Gold was fifth and Idaho’s Chase Josey was sixth to lead the U.S. contingent.

Three-time Olympic gold medalist and sport icon Shaun White finished eighth, his best run of 75.50 coming in his first pass through. While White has yet to prove himself a worthy podium contender for the upcoming Winter Games, he seems highly likely to snag one of the U.S.’s Olympic team spots. This would be White’s fifth trip to the Olympics.

In seventh on Saturday was Japan’s Raibu Katayama, and it was a pair of Swiss riders rounding out the 10-man field with David Habluetzel in ninth and Patrick Burgener in last.

Cai takes women’s title over Tomita

In the women’s snowboard halfpipe final, China’s Xuetong Cai made her return by scoring 80.50 in her third and final run to take the World Cup win. This was her first contest in 22 months after Chinese athletes weren’t allowed to compete last season due to strict COVID-19 rules in the country.

China’s Cai Xuetong stands on the podium after winning in the women’s snowboard halfpipe finals on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, at the U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain.
Hugh Carey/AP

Japan’s Sena Tomita finished second (76) and Spain’s Queralt Castellet was third (70.50). Rounding out the eight-woman final were Canada’s Elizabeth Hosking in fourth, Japan’s Mitsuki Ono in fifth, Switzerland’s Berenice Wicki in sixth, Japan’s Haruna Matsumoto in seventh, and China’s Shaotong Wu in eighth.

No American woman qualified through to finals in what was the second of four official U.S. Olympic halfpipe team qualifiers. American stars Chloe Kim and Maddie Mastro did not compete, although both are expected back next week for Dew Tour, also held at Copper Mountain. Dew Tour is a U.S. Olympic team qualifier this year.


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